All posts in Night Pictures

Growing up with Target Doctor Who books

Over at The Night Bazaar, I kick off their YA week with some memories of what books influenced me the most growing up – the Target Doctor Who novelisations. I can’t be the only one who owes a lot to Uncle Terrance!

A couple of days to go before December, when it’s back to work on the interrupted first draft of Night Pictures. I’ve never stopped a WIP in the middle before (which I had to do, as I had edits on Seven Wonders, Empire State, and some other projects to complete by deadline), so I’m going back and re-reading the first half of the book to remember what was going on.

It’s actually quite interesting, doing this. Firstly, during the hiatus, my subconscious kept working on the story and it figured out a couple of plot points and even changed some stuff around. As a result, I have a much clearer direction for the second half of the story. Secondly, I never edit as I go, so re-reading part of a manuscript before it is done is not something I normally do. But I’ve quite enjoyed it this time – draft one/zero this may be, but… some of it isn’t too bad. I just had to resist the urge to start editing. That comes later – much later!

Don’t forget, Empire State is being launched at Forbidden Planet on Thursday, 5th January, at 6pm. There is a Facebook event page here, and it’s up on the Forbidden Planet site here. I hope to see you there!

Links, stats, updates, business cards!

Bunch’a stuff:

  • The Empire State Worldbuilder project is called the “anti-Pottermore” by i09.
  • Mur Lafferty, who is managing the Worldbuilder, has done a nice initial summary of what the project is. We’ll be able to release more information as soon as we can.
  • The Worldbuilder also gets a mention over at Benito Corral Reviews.
  • Kirkus Reviews, one of the longest-running and most influential book review magazines, gives me a shout-out in part two of their look at superhero fiction. You can read part one here.

The other day my new business cards arrived – I mentioned on Twitter that these cards have a QR code on the back, which got a lot of people interested, and I promised I’d post a picture. Here they are:

The QR code points to my website. To me it makes perfect sense to have the code on the card – these cards are mostly given out at conventions, usually in the bar, and while they’re usually filed away in wallets or jacket pockets, everybody has their phone with them. A quick scan, and you’ve arrived here.

Work continues apace on Night Pictures. Apace is such a great word. Anyway, I’m theoretically at the halfway point, although I’m picking, as usual, that this book is going to come out around 120,000 words. Which is no problem, because my 2k/day schedule allows for a 120k draft to be done by the end of September. I haven’t been providing daily stats as I’ve been a little hammered this week, but here’s the latest:

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words, 19-24th August: 9,615
Words total: 49,645/100,000 (49%)
Word to go: 50,355
Days to go: 36

So, on track, but I need to put some elbow grease in, although this afternoon we’re off to pick up my wife’s new car, so we’ll have to see how much I can get done today. The good news is that after a lengthy set-up, things are getting really weird in the town of Chandler, West Virginia, and all the main players have now joined forces to battle the… whatever it is.

This time next week I’ll be in New York to meet my agent, do some sightseeing and bookshopping, and to eat chicken and waffles while listening to gospel singers (all quite true).


Empire State linksapalooza

Things have been ramping up a little around here lately, so please to enjoy this handy round-up:

  • As part of Noir Week on, you can read an exclusive extract from from Empire State, a full five months prior to publication. Angry Robot pointed the way, and it was also mentioned over at Benito Corral Reviews.
  • At WorldCon in Reno, the Empire State Worldbuilder was announced…
  • …and was covered by The Bookseller today.
  • You can pre-order Empire State here, and you can read some of the early blurbs here. And there are more to come too.
  • If you missed it earlier, my two-part interview with Chuck Wendig is available here and here. As well as talking about writing and how I got my book deal, it also features a brand new short story, Green Eggs and Handguns, which you won’t find anywhere else.
  • I’m also pleased to announce I’ll be at FantasyCon this year. FantasyCon is being held in Brighton from 30th September to 2nd October, and with a bit of luck I might be doing a reading from Empire State. Please come and say hello!
  • Seven Wonders, my superhero novel coming out from Angry Robot at the end of 2012, is now listed on Goodreads, so you can now add it to your bookshelf. You’ll find Empire State‘s listing here.

I’ll be updating the Empire State page with more information about the book soon, along with more details on the Worldbuilder project and how it works. Stay tuned!

I haven’t updated my stats on Night Pictures for a while, mostly because I’ve had a slightly erratic week of writing and the stats have been all over the place. My last update was last Sunday, when I’d reached just over the 30k mark on draft 0. There’s no point breaking down the writing for the week, but taking it up until 12pm today, this is where I’m at:

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words, Sunday to Friday morning: 9,198
Words total: 40,030/100,000 (40%)
Word to go: 59,970
Days to go: 42

This works out at about 1,533 words a day, which is not great. However, I’m still on schedule to get draft 0 done by the end of September – by the end of today (Friday 19th August) I should have 38,000 words done. I’m 2k ahead of that and I’ve still got an afternoon of work to do, so we’re looking good.

Of course, that’s assuming this is a 100,000-word novel… and y’know, I’m not sure yet…

When days off are not really days off

After a busy Saturday, I decided to let myself chill a little on Sunday, and I didn’t do any actual writing. Thanks to being super-productive earlier, I’m ahead of schedule on Night Pictures so I can afford to make a withdrawal from that big old word bank I built up. Note the use of the phrase ‘let myself’. This is quite accurate. As a writer, I get nervous when I don’t write. The heart starts to race, the adrenaline surges, there is a feeling that something is wrong. This is what drives all writers, I suspect!

But, of course, it wasn’t a day off, not really. Sure, I didn’t add any words to Night Pictures, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t working on it. I worked out a few plot niggles in my mind, figured out where the current scene-in-progress needs to go, and I fleshed out more of the completely new an unexpected villain who, if you remember, showed up out of the blue in that very first prologue.

I also thought about a few activities related to Empire State that I should start working on, and to round out the day, inspiration struck in the form of a completely new novel idea, one which I shall jot down on an index card and stick to my magic corkboard.

So it wasn’t really a day off writing, it was just a day off typing. And what a productive day it was!

Out Of This World, Take 2

Yesterday a large gathering of fans gathered at the British Library to meet Lauren Beukes and Joey Hi-Fi in the surrounds of the wonderful Out Of This World science fiction exhibition. It was the second time I’ve been and the exhibition still impressed me, and I’d really recommend going to take a look if you can get there before it closes on September 25th.

Lauren was jetlagged but brilliant, as always, reading from Zoo City and then giving a talk about what science fiction means to her. It was great to see so many people had come out to see her, and it looked like a marvellous afternoon was had by all. I was also surprised by the number of people who came up to say how much they liked the cover for Empire State. Thanks, everyone!

And then sun came out for the raffle!

Many thanks to Jared and Anne from Pornokitsch and Tom from the Arthur C. Clarke Award for organising such a cool tweet-up. It was great to see Lauren again, to finally meet Joey in person. Also a big hello to @hagelrat, @tomhpollock, @alittlebriton, @zombietown, @CTD, @dodgyhoodoo, @erik_lundqvist, @soylentsoma, and anyone else I said hello to but have forgotten.

Unfortunately my train down was jam-packed and there weren’t any tables, but on the way home I grabbed a first class upgrade and managed to get a small amount of writing done. However, it’s for days like these that the getting ahead in the game pays off – thanks to some good writing days recently that I’m still ahead of schedule.

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 780
Words total: 30,832/100,000 (30%)
Word to go: 69,168
Days to go: 48

Lauren Beukes and Joey Hi-Fi at the British Library

Off to London tomorrow to see Lauren Beukes and Joey Hi-Fi at the British Library Out of this World exhibition. Lauren is passing through on her way to WorldCon in Reno, Nevada, and this is a rare opportunity to see her and Zoo City cover artist Joey together. Should be a fun day, and I even don’t mind taking the slow train down, as I should be able to get some writing done.

The even is being organised by the Arthur C. Clarke Award and review site Pornokitsch, and there’s more info over at Angry Robot.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a good couple of days on Night Pictures. I didn’t post stats for yesterday, so here’s a combined readout that takes me up to the end of this week.

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 7,845 (for Thursday 11th and Friday 12th August combined)
Words total: 30,052/100,000 (30%)
Word to go: 69,948
Days to go: 49

Empire State Grand Links Central

Lots to update today!

  • Empire State now has its own page over at Angry Robot, where you will find some early blurbs for the book. There are more to come, but seeing the first one all together on one page is pretty cool and very surreal. It also reveals that the US edition will be a trade paperback, rather than the usual mass-market paperback. I was pretty buzzed when I heard they were going for a trade, as the artwork is going to look pretty hot at that larger size.
  • Just one day after it was launched, Will Staehle’s fabulous cover is now up at SF Signal as part of their regular Book Cover Smackdown feature. Empire State is up against By Light Alone by Adam Roberts, and A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan. So head on over and make your pick!
  • Empire State‘s cover is also up at The Qwillery, and I’m also happy to announce I’m first up in their 2012 Debut Author Challenge. To take part, you just need to sign up, buy the book when it comes out, read it, and then join the conversation over at The Qwillery. I’ll also be doing an interview and a reader Q&A.
  • The cover is also on display over at Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf & Book Review.
  • My interview with Chuck Wendig (part one, part two) gets a tag over at A Walk in the Dark Woods.

If anyone sees Empire State out and about on the web, please drop me a line!

After one sub-2k day on Night Pictures, I picked back up yesterday and hit the required wordcount. A couple of interesting things cropped up two, including two completely new subplots. I might have a look at my schedule and targets for this book, as I’m starting to think it’s going to be longer than 100,000 words. I tend to write to 120,000 anyway, so 100,000 is really more of a minimum count which makes things easy to track. And tracking is important, as I’ve got some other deadline-sensitive work later this year, so I need to have a pretty solid schedule mapped out.

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 2,041
Words total: 22,198/100,000 (22%)
Word to go: 77,802
Days to go: 51

Supergods, US edition

Speaking of book covers, the other day my US edition of Grant Morrison’s autobiography/analysis of superhero comics, Supergods, arrived. I often pick book purchases based on the cover, and I find myself frequently drawn to US releases in favour of UK ones.

It used to be the case that US covers were generally a little dreary or strange, while UK covers were classy, but over the last couple of years there has been something of a reversal. I also think it is partially due to growing up in New Zealand (and I even worked in a bookstore as my first job!), which is exposed to both American and British design in equal measure, so US design sensibilities are quite familiar to me.

Anyway, the thing that struck me about Supergods is that the US editions comes in an unusual half-dust jacket. I haven’t seen this kind of thing before, so I have no idea how widespread it is. My initial thought is that it would be prone to tearing, but the bold yellow used here is pretty striking (click for full-size).

The UK cover is, to my mind, totally hideous.

Additionally, the cover blurb:

Our world in the age of the superhero

…is lacking an awful lot in comparison to the US cover blurb:

What masked vigilantes, miraculous mutants, and a sun god from Smallville can teach us about being human

All I can say is, thank goodness for!

I am obliged to report that yesterday was my first sub-2k day on Night Pictures, for a variety of reasons which included a tight deadline for the day gig and a fair amount of staring in awe at the cover for Empire State. However, difficult days are what those bonus words in the bank are for, so despite yesterday’s sub-par effort, I’m still ahead. I’ve also crossed the 20% milestone, which I think deserves some nice biscuits this afternoon!

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 1,509
Words total: 20,157/100,000 (20%)
Word to go: 79,843
Days to go: 52

Super 8

Last night we saw Super 8 – the UK finally getting a release two months after the rest of the world. I’m sure there was some logical business reason why there was such a delay, but (as with Pixar’s Up in 2009) the gap between the worldwide release and the UK one did tend to sap interest, I think. In these days of social media, it just seems a little odd, especially for a major SF film like Super 8 (given that SF fans are more likely to be following releases and reception closely online).


Super 8 was damn good. It was spectacular and dramatic with a superb cast and a very identifiable collection of characters. The film works because it is very well written – going back to my post a little while ago about conflict, change and need, you can see this in each of characters on screen. This elevates any kind of story in any medium to something special, and Super 8 achieved it.

Go see it!

Yesterday was another steady day on Night Pictures. This novel has a fairly long set-up, which no doubt will get tightened up during round two. But I’m near the end of that section, and after today this will start to happen.

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 2,010
Words total: 16,461/100,000 (16%)
Word to go: 83,539
Days to go: 54

Phase Two: The Fear

Night Pictures has moved to phase two of writing.

Phase one is the what-the-hell-is-this? phase. No matter how much planning and outlining you do, you still really don’t know what the book is like until you start writing. So after five days I have a feel for it.

Phase two is the OMG-this-sucks! phase – the writing is terrible, nothing is happening, it’s all awful, I need to quit writing.

This is the tricky bit because you are worrying about stuff which doesn’t need to be worried out until later. On the first draft, you have permission to suck, and you have permission to write badly. That’s why it’s the first draft, and that’s why you edit the book. I suspect this is where a lot – if not most – people who want to write novel-length fiction get stuck. You get a little bit in, and things aren’t quite what you thought they would be, and you really want to be doing better, so you quit and try something else. Only you’ll get to the exact same point at the next attempt, and the next, and the next.

As with anything repetitious in life, it sometimes takes a while to realise what’s going on. Phase two of the novel will pass quickly and I’ll get to phase three soon enough. And phase three is the cool bit, the hey-I-love-writing! phase. That’s the bit to enjoy, before phase four shows up, for me, usually around the 60,000 word mark.

Phase four is the nasty one. I hate phase four. Phase four is the wait-I-have-a-better-idea-for-a-book! bit.

Human nature is so predictable, but at least I’ve recognised The Fear now and can happily keep on trucking.

Project: Night Pictures (missing persons, ghost towns and TV hackers)
Words yesterday: 3,017
Words total: 14,451/100,000 (14%)
Word to go: 85,549
Days to go: 55